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I-League: Indian Arrows ready for Minerva Punjab challenge

A Indian Arrows player during a practice session at Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula on Friday. (Express photo by Jaipal Singh)

With just one win out of four matches, Indian Arrows are currently sitting at the bottom of the points table in the I-league this season. While their only win in the tournament came against Shillong Lajong FC, Indian Arrows youngsters had a courageous outing against I League debutants Real Kashmir FC earlier this week. Even though the team lost the match 0-2, Indian Arrows head coach Floyd Pinto rates the performance highly and with the team facing defending champions Minerva Punjab FC at Tau Deli Lal Stadium on Saturday, Pinto sounded confident about his team’s chances against the home side.

“It’s always a good motivation for the players to play against defending champions Minerva Punjab FC. They are not only the defending champions but a good young side knowing to compete hard. Every season is different and we have been planning some changes in our style of play this year. The focus has been on being more competitive and being more comfortable with the ball. Even though we lost the game against Real Kashmir FC, the fact that we dominated the ball possession in the match will give us a lot of confidence. I hope that we can effectively use the ball much better than we did against Areal Kashmir and create more chanced against a team like Minerva Punjab FC,” shared Pinto.

After being reintroduced in the I League as Indian Arrows last year, the team sees the presence of most of the youngsters from the Indian U-17 football team, which competed in last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup. While members of the Indian U-17 team like captain Amarjeet Singh Kiyam, Sanjeev Stalin, Boris Singh Thangjam and T Jeakson Singh form the core of the mid-field for Indian Arrows, defenders like Anwar Ali, Ashish Rai and Deepak Tangri are expected to face a tough challenge from Minerva Punjab FC. The team also have four players from the Indian U-16 team, which reached the quarter-final of the AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia, in the form of forwards Vikram Pratap Singh, Rohit Dhanu, Gurkirat Singh and Lalbiakhlua Jongte. While the team finished at the bottom of the points table with four wins and three draws, coach Pinto believes that the focus is on the long term development of the players. “One thing which I have learnt while working with the players is that I have to be little more patient. All of them are young players and it is very important to encourage the players even after losses. Our main objective is that these youngsters get to play 90 minutes of play and face I-League teams. This group is one of the toughest in terms of mental strength and some of the boys fro last year’s squad are playing in their second I-League. We need to develop them game after game and results will surely come,” added Pinto.

While hosts Minerva Punjab FC won both the matches against Indian Arrows last season, the fact that the defending champions have only one win this season out of five matches. The team has only scored four goals with two of the goals coming in their 2-2 draw against Shillong Lajong FC last week. While the team has signed Colombian Jorge Ivan Caceido Rodriguez last week, the team forward line has failed to score consistently. “We have to take the positives from the last game against Shillong Lajong FC. We travelled for more than 40 hours to reach the venue after our flight was cancelled and the players were tired mentally as well as physically. But to score two goals after being down by 0-2 in the match and with ten men in the second half is something which will motivate the team. Even though we could not win, the team created more chances and showed their eagerness to score more goals. And if we can score more goals, wins will surely come,” said Paul Munster, head coach Minerva Punjab FC.